Millions of Americans are taking anti-depressants for depression and chronic pain issues. The unfortunate fact is that many patients are simply masking symptoms of true underlying imbalances with these medications and the problem just continues to fester and grow under the surface. It’s like putting a piece of tape over your “check engine” light because you are tired of seeing it lit up and aren’t going to do anything about it. That piece of tape no more fixes the root cause of your engine trouble than taking a mix of drugs to mask symptoms of something bigger going on.
You are probably familiar with the “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs) that are so commonly prescribed. Their mechanism of action is to keep the serotonin molecules in the synaptic cleft longer so their effect can be more pronounced. The synaptic cleft is simply the small region between two nerve cells. It is where all the communication takes place. The first nerve cell in the chain is called the pre-synaptic neuron and it sends information to the post-synaptic neuron.
The problem arises when their is failure to address 3 basic physiological components of this communication system.
- The health and integrity of the pre-synaptic neuron
- The amount of substrate in the synaptic cleft
- The health and integrity of the post-synaptic neuron
Failure to address all three of these aspects can lead to poor clinical outcomes. If the pre-synaptic neuron is unable to manufacture the neurotransmitters (ie serotonin) due to low nutrient reserve then there will be a failure of substrate in the synaptic cleft regardless of whether you are taking SSRI’s or not.
There are many things that are necessary to maintain healthy neuronal integrity. Below I will discuss a few basics that are essential to have good manufacture of the neurotransmitters, healthy transmission and reception of messages across the synaptic cleft, and healthy membranes to continue the message along the path.
- Protein – Adequate protein is vital for healthy neuronal function. The receptors that release and bind to the manufactured neurotransmitters are protein. Poor protein intake can lead to receptor dysfunction.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – The neuron membranes are surrounded by fatty myelin sheaths. These allow for proper conduction and insulation of electrochemical signals. Unhealthy diets can replace the necessary healthy fats with abnormal fats that affect neuronal health.
- Vitamins/Minerals – The enzymes that are necessary to manufacture, convert, and reuptake neurotransmitters and nerve messages are dependent on trace minerals and vitamins. These nutrient co-factors help to ensure that all the pathways work as they are intended. Nutrient deficiency can lead to breakdown in proper function.
- Amino Acids – Neurotransmitters are synthesized from amino acids which are derived from protein. For example, serotonin requires the amino acid tryptophan to be manufactured. Stress depletes tryptophan so it can lead to an amino acid imbalance. This, over time, can lead to serotonin deficiency as well.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiency leads to inflammation in the brain. Inflammation in the brain will to poor nerve cell integrity.
- Probiotics – The majority of your neurotransmitters are manufactured in your gut…yep, in your gut. Irritable bowel, leaky gut, and other digestive complaints can alter neurotransmitter health. Taking daily probiotic supplementation can keep your gut healthy and keep neurotransmitter function healthy.
Living the Magnificent Seven Lifestyle and daily supplementing with the Foundational Five are ways to keep your brain healthy, prevent depression, and keep your mind active and sharp!
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